There are no experts on today’s Korean situation; there are only varying degrees of ignorance. I think we’d both feel better if you looked up and re-read that opening line every so often.
The general on TV was telling us China doesn’t want a collapse of the Theme Park For Hell called North Korea, because then a prosperous, democratic South Korea would be right there on China’s doorstep. Huh? If North Korea collapsed, South Korea would no longer be a prosperous democracy. It would be overwhelmed by millions of North Korean refugees. See what I mean? That first comment was from an American general. The second is from former Private First-Class Farber! Whom do you trust?
China and South Korea are at the moment the strangest of bedfellows; neither wants a collapse of North Korea that would throw off refugees across their borders by the millions.
North Korea and communist China are two unique states pack-threaded together as allies. China has evolved into a screwy hybrid of a capitalist economy with a Communist Party that intimidates and controls the population just like Cuba and the old Soviet and Eastern European dictatorships. North Korea is like the man who stockpiles high explosives in his front and back yards and then tells the neighborhood, “I will blow you all up if you don’t pay my rent, my utilities, my groceries and throw in a little extra for the weekends.”
More than 2 million North Koreans have died in the type of famines so yawningly familiar to those living under communism. Other communist countries have “triangulated” in the face of mass starvation and allowed some private peasant ownership of land. Not North Korea. In the midst of one of their more severe famines, the state-controlled press ran a story about scientists “proving” it was healthier to eat only one meal a day!
Speaking of domestic propaganda, North Korea’s has long been the laughingstock of even other communist countries. They all put out nauseatingly stupid stories praising their leaders: “Great Leaders,” “Dear Leaders,” “Comrade Marshals,” etc. But not like North Korea. A North Korean newspaper (on the level!) reported that “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-il took up golf – and scored six holes-in-one on his very first round!
Why is North Korea behaving so recklessly? Well, the TV tells us that as leadership is being passed to Dear Leader’s son, Kim Jong-un, the regime wants the world to know there won’t be any limp-wristed civilization emanating from Pyongyang. And what better way to make that point than to start another Korean War? The only veteran of the North Korean Army that invaded South Korea in June 1950 who escaped and became an American citizen, and now lives in New Jersey, says North Korea wants attention to gin up negotiations for all that aid it hopes to get if it gives up its nuclear weapons. I say birds build nests, beavers build dams and North Korean leaders instinctively over-react belligerently.
The South Koreans are screaming for a tough stand against North Korea. They forced their defense minister to resign for too timid a reaction to the attack from the North, and South Korea doggedly follows America into the naval exercises in the Yellow Sea, which North Korea and China warn means “the brink of war.”
Meanwhile – and this makes the 800-pound gorilla seem like a docile Doberman – the South Korean capital, Seoul, is only 30 miles south of the DMZ, the Demilitarized Zone separating the two countries. Forget intermediate this and long-range that. Plain old North Korean conventional artillery lined up just north of the DMZ and ordered to fire would bring a fiery annihilation down upon Seoul, to which the South Koreans would have no easy target to retaliate.
Have the South Koreans forgotten that? Owing either to their courage or their ignorance, the South Korean population is screaming for military vengeance for the latest – and many earlier – unprovoked North Korean attacks.
As the American aircraft carrier George Washington and other American and South Korean warships steam into the unknown for war games that drive Beijing and Pyongyang nuts, let me offer a snapshot into the mentality of North Korea.
The border between North and South runs right down the middle of the DMZ; right down the middle of the room where negotiations take place and right down the middle of the long table across which the two sides deliberate. During one truce meeting, an American major dropped his pencil under the table and it bounced onto the North Korean side.
As he instinctively reached down and under to pick it up, a Communist official stomped his combat boot down upon the major’s fingers.
At this juncture, a line from the Korean War spoken in jest may be as helpful as all the anguished analysis being delivered to us now with a straight face.
Legendary USMC Lt. Gen. Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller, at a particularly difficult moment for his Marines, shouted, “They’ve got us surrounded, men. Don’t let any of them get away!”